FIVE HUNDRED EIGHTY SECOND MEETING- REGULAR
TUESDAY– MAY 11, 2021– 6:00 P.M.
PLEASE NOTE: If you wish to be heard at this meeting please sign the speaker list provided online at cityoflaurel.org. The Chairman reserves the right to limit the amount of time each speaker has for each agenda item.
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- Roll Call
- Approval of Amended Minutes from the March 9, 2021 meeting
- Resolution No. 21-05-PC; Planning Commission determination of substantial change to the final approved plan of the planned unit development area located at 14504 Greenview Drive Laurel, Maryland 20708. The Applicant, Berman Enterprises, is seeking to change the current use of the property from office to a mix of residential and commercial use.
Public Hearing on Application
Final Action by Planning Commission
- Planning Commission Annual Report and Resolution No. 21-04-PC
Public Hearing on Application
Final Action by Planning Commission
FIVE HUNDRED EIGHTY SECOND MEETING
CITY OF LAUREL PLANNING COMMISSION
TUESDAY MAY 11, 2021 – 6:00 P.M.
The meeting convened on a virtual platform through Zoom at 6:00 P.M., with Chairwoman Mitzi R. Betman presiding. The roll was called with Councilmember Keith Sydnor, Ms. Krystiana Bonheur and Mr. Bill Wellford. Also, present were Councilmember Carl Dewalt, Councilmember Michael Leszcz, City Solicitor, Larry Taub, Economic & Community Development Director, Mr. Robert Love and Secretary to the Commission, Ms. Brooke Quillen. Mr. Darnell Butler from the Communications Department was also present. There were approximately ten (10) members of the public in attendance.
Vice Chairman John Kish joined the meeting at 6:01 p.m.
Chairwoman Betman congratulated Mr. Robert Love, previously Deputy Director, on his new position as Director to the Economic and Community Development Department, as well as Ms. Christian Pulley, previously Director of Economic & Community Development Department, who was recently appointed as Deputy City Administrator and Ms. Lou Ann Crook, previously Deputy City Administrator, who was recently appointed as City Administrator at Monday night’s Mayor and City Council hearing.
The minutes of the March 9, 2021 meeting were approved as written, on motion by Mr. Wellford seconded by Mr. Kish, and carried on a roll call vote of all members present.
Next, was Substantial Departure Application and Resolution No. 21-05-PC, 14504 Greenview Drive Laurel, Maryland 20708 filed by Gingles LLC c/o Andre Gingles, 14401 Sweitzer Lane Laurel, Maryland 20707. Mr. Love stated the applicant is seeking a determination of substantial departure of the final approved plan of the planned unit development area. The applicant is seeking to change the current use of the property from office to a mix of residential and commercial use. The property was built in 1987 and the current use of the property is office use.
Representing the applicant, Mr. Andre Gingles, Attorney, Gingles LLC., 14401 Sweitzer Lane Laurel, Maryland 20707, stated his client, Mr. Brain Berman, was also on the call and wishes to introduce himself to the Commission before we proceed with his testimony on the application.
The applicant, Mr. Brian Berman, Berman Enterprises, 5410 Edison Lane Suite 220 Rockville, Maryland 20852, introduced himself to the Commission, stating he and his cousin Kevin Berman (who is also in attendance tonight) are third generations of Berman Enterprises. His family has owned properties in Laurel for about 80 years including the original Laurel Mall and Laurel Shopping Center, among many others. When he saw this property up for auction he was concerned as vacant buildings can deteriorate quickly. He added that unfortunately, office use has decreased over the past few years especially since last year when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Mr. Berman noted there were residential plans previously approved for this site but never constructed. He struggles to see this property going back to full commercial use. The proposed project keeps some commercial use with residential use as well. Mr. Berman stated he believes this could be a great mixed-use property and is excited to move forward. He thanked the Commission for their time on hearing this application.
Mr. Andre Gingles, Attorney, Gingles LLC., 14401 Sweitzer Lane Laurel, Maryland 20707, representing the applicant, stated the staff report analysis mostly focuses on the use, however, they looked at it much broader as a multi development conversion. He noted that upon research they found that multiple uses were apart of the previously approved PUD including multi-family. He and his client believe this proposed conversion would be less than a substantial departure to the PUD. The original PUD approved 216 multi-family dwelling units and 156 of those were constructed. Additionally, there were 12,000 sq. ft. of retail approved and 164 sq. ft. was constructed. Basically, they want to tap into what was previously approved but never built. Mr. Gingles stated there would be approximately a 2 ½ percent increase of density with this project.
There were no questions from the Commission.
Chairwoman Betman opened the public hearing at approximately 6:18 p.m.
Ms. Holly Ulmer, 9408 Spring House Lane Laurel, Maryland 20708, stated she is a Laurel resident of approximately 30 years and currently lives in Spring House Apartments close to the proposed site. She added she is not opposed to new development and has respect for Berman Enterprises; however, she asked the Commission to think about the two (2) major road access points and current road infrastructure congestion with the already approved Patuxent Greens development adding 450 new dwelling units. Additionally, Ms. Ulmer reminded the Commission of the nearby 100-year flood plain as it would be challenging to evacuate in an emergency. Ms. Ulmer urged the Commission to think about smart, safe and sustainable city planning and the current/future children in the neighborhood. Lastly, she stressed this is a substantial change.
Mr. Daniel McDaniel, 14225 Greenview Drive Laurel, Maryland 20708, expressed his safety concern of the current intersection and if this is approved, he would like to see a traffic study done from a certified and credited company. He added this site was not designed for an additional 185 apartments as the parking is already an issue. The concept plan does not look like there would be enough parking. Mr. McDaniel stated he has massive safety concerns and believes this does look like a substantial change.
Councilmember Carl DeWalt stated he lived in Spring House Apartments for five (5) years and is a longtime Laurel resident; he added the two (2) exists are a big concern with all the current traffic. He expressed faith in the staff of the Economic and Community Development department as they are very educated and experienced. He believes the Commission should agree with staff, that it is a substantial change and applicant should go before the Mayor and City Council for review and approval. He warned that evacuations would be a major challenge.
Mr. James Kole, 322 Carroll Avenue Laurel, Maryland 20707, commented that the percentage mentioned by the attorney seems like a substantial change because if taxes were raised 2 ½ percent everyone would be upset.
Mr. Andre Gingles, Attorney, Gingles LLC., 14401 Sweitzer Lane Laurel, Maryland 20707, representing the applicant, stated they would obtain a parking analysis and traffic study to justify this development. He and his client still believe this is not a substantial change to the PUD, as they are trying to stay with what was already approved for the site. They will continue to reach out to the community and look forward to working with city staff and Council moving forward.
Chairwoman Batman closed the public hearing at approximately 6:40 p.m.
The Commission, on motion by Mr. Wellford, seconded by Ms. Bonheur, and carried on a roll call vote of all members present, voted to recommend approval of the Determination of Substantial Change Application and Resolution No. 21-05-PC with the conditions as presented in the Technical Staff Report.
Next on the agenda was the 2020 Planning Report and Resolution No. 21-04-PC.
Mr. Love read the report to the Commission.
Chairwoman Betman opened the public hearing at approximately 6:47 p.m.
Chairwoman Betman noted for the record there were zero (0) members of the public signed up to speak on this item.
Chairwoman Betman closed the public hearing at approximately 6:47 p.m.
The Commission, on motion by Ms. Bonheur, seconded by Mr. Wellford, and carried on a roll call vote of all members present, voted approve the 2020 Planning Commission Annual Report and Resolution No 21-04-PC.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 6:48 p.m.
Approved: Brooke Quillen Date: 6/16/2021